Malcolm Smith online course


Dzogchen: 10 Key Terms

An online course with Ācārya Malcolm Smith

Understand Dzogchen terms on a new level

Alan Wallace online course

Study Dzogchen with a master translator

In this new course from the Wisdom Academy, you’ll be guided by a master translator through some of the most important and often-misunderstood terms in Dzogchen.

As a student in Dzogchen: Ten Key Terms, you’ll have the chance to delve deep into ten terms and hone a more advanced understanding that will illuminate your practice and inspire your path.

Ācārya Malcolm Smith explores the deep meaning in the dzogchen context of terms such as vidya, kadag, lhudrub, yeshe, and much more.

You’ll enjoy video lectures from Malcolm Smith, curated readings, short quizzes to test your understanding, and a forum for discussion with your fellow students. 

✨Plus, we’ll be offering three live Zoom Q&As with Malcolm! 

Click the button below to save your seat and get access to this fantastic resource for your practice.

Tuition: $397 USD

Materials remain accessible even after the course ends so you can return to them again and again!
For more about our terms, please see the Wisdom Academy FAQ.

Alan Wallace online course

Key Information

Starts June 30, 2023, and runs for 10 weeks. Full schedule is below.

One lesson is released each week. You can take the lessons at your own pace, but we recommend completing them weekly so you can keep up with the discussions.

• Each lesson includes a video of about one hour, a reading, a short quiz, and a forum for discussion.

• The only live component of the course (besides the ongoing discussions in the forum) will be the three live Q&As with Malcolm. More information on the Q&As can be found below.

Many Dzogchen students find that their practice and understanding are limited by their understanding of unique Dzogchen terms. Malcolm will guide you through ten key terms that he selected, explaining the essence, definition, and divisions of the terms. 

By deeply understanding these terms, you can move toward developing a detailed understanding of your own primordial state–the central point of studying Dzogchen teachings.

Sign up now and retain ongoing access to course materials!


A new lesson will be released each Friday starting June 30, 2023. You can complete each lesson at your own pace, but we recommend finishing it in time to keep pace with the forum and Q&A discussions.

Q&As will take place over Zoom. Zoom details will be shared closer to the time. Q&As will be recorded.

• June 30: lesson 1 released
July 7: lesson 2 released
• July 14: lesson 3 released
• Monday, July 17: Q&A #1 at 6pm EST
• July 21: lesson 4 released
• July 28: lesson 5 released
• August 4: lesson 6 released
August 11: lesson 7 released
Monday, August 14: Q&A #2 at 6pm EST
August 18: lesson 8 released
August 25: lesson 9 released
September 1: lesson 10 released
Thursday, September 7: Q&A #3 at 6pm EST

Please note that while we intend on keeping these dates, Q&A dates may shift due to unforeseen circumstances. We appreciate your understanding.

This course will cover ten key terms used in the Great Perfection teachings. We will look at their meanings, definitions, and divisions. The goal of the course is to introduce students to an evidence-based approach for understanding Great Perfection terminology based on readings from original Great Perfection tantras, primary commentaries, and masters such as Longchenpa.

Alan Wallace online course

Lesson Plan

Lesson 1: The Basis (gZhi)

In this introductory lesson, Ācārya Malcolm Smith sets the tone for the course, exploring the first of ten key Dzogchen terms: basis (tib. gzhi). This refers to a primordial buddhahood present yet obscured in all deluded beings such as ourselves. The Dzogchen view’s focus on pristine awareness (tib. ye shes) distinguishes it from other systems that assert an impure basis of transformation. Malcolm details a core mode of concentration on the basis devoid of both effortful striving and a prerequisite of extensive calm-abiding (skt. shamatha) experience.

Lesson 2: Original Purity (ka dag)

Presentation of the essence, nature, and compassion of the basis typically comprises the core of Dzogchen teachings. Among these three concepts, the essence—original purity (tib. ka dag)—is the focus of the course’s second lesson. Malcolm characterizes this original purity on the basis of a detailed section (never before presented in English) on the ten pristine consciousnesses found in the (Transformations of) Sound Tantra (tib. sgra thal ’gyur rgyud).

Lesson 3: Natural Perfection (lhun grub)

In this lesson, Malcolm uses a detailed section from the Sound Tantra (tib. sgra thal ’gyur rgyud) as the starting point for an exploration of the third among the ten key Dzogchen terms covered in this course: natural perfection (tib. lhun grub). Malcolm shares how the Sanskrit original (i.e., nirābhoga or anābhoga) involves connotations of effortlessness and mode of abiding; it could aptly be translated with greater emphasis on the “proof” or “establishment” flavor of the Tibetan syllable grub, but “natural perfection” is in keeping with the prevailing tradition.

Lesson 4: Compassion (thugs rje)

Ācārya Malcolm Smith delves into the fourth key Dzogchen term addressed in this course: thugs rje. The etymology of this term involves a heartfelt love for sentient beings (i.e., tib. thugs) and the engendering of a special sympathy for them (i.e., tib. rje). Accordingly, Malcolm translates the term simply as “compassion” rather than as the popular “(compassionate) energy” or similar.

Lesson 5: Pristine Consciousness (ye shes)

In this lesson, Ācārya Malcolm Smith explores pristine consciousness (tib. ye shes). Malcolm identifies two types of pristine consciousness: the self-originated “ultimate” pristine consciousness that has always known its own state and a “relative” pristine consciousness that operates on the basis of the cognition of objects.

Lesson 6: Vidyā (rig pa)

In this lesson, Malcolm covers a Dzogchen term that garners perhaps more interest than any other and yet remains the most elusive: rigpa (skt. vidyā). Malcolm situates an authoritative work (i.e., the so-called rig pa bsdus pa’i sgron me) from the Vima Nyingtik (compiled by Longchenpa) as the basis for an extensive discussion covering topics ranging from the role of guru yoga in Dzogchen to the true meaning of realization (tib. rtogs pa).

Lesson 7: Ignorance (ma rig pa)

In this lesson, Ācārya Malcolm Smith follows up on his previous rigpa-focused class to elucidate rigpa’s direct counterpart, ignorance. Beginning with a brief recap of the explanation of ignorance (and the 12 links of dependent arising) originating from Vasabhandu’s autocommentary on the Verses of Abhidharma, Malcolm presents the key takeaway of three operating factors involved in the wheel of samsara: affliction, karma, and suffering.

Lesson 8: Play (rol pa)

In a thought-provoking eighth lesson, Malcolm Smith follows a section in Longchenpa’s Treasury of Citations (tib. lung gi gter mdzod) to explore the implications of the term “play” (tib. rol pa) in Dzogchen teachings. This is often misunderstood term, particularly in the context of statements such as “All appearances are the play of bodhicitta.”

Lesson 9: Bodhicitta (byang chub sems)

In this lesson, Malcolm introduces the uncommon Dzogchen understanding of bodhicitta (tib. byang chub sems), seizing the opportunity to compare and contrast the modes of meditation on the view at various levels of Buddhist practice and in different schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Lesson 10: Transcendent State (dgongs pa)

In this lesson, Malcolm Smith explores the meaning of the transcendent state (tib. dgongs pa) in the Dzogchen system. This term occurs repeatedly in the scriptural tradition and is commonly mistranslated—rather than mere intentionality or similar, transcendent state here specifically means to be in a state of contemplation without any interruption.


• How much does this course cost? Tuition is $397. Your tuition fee helps support Wisdom’s nonprofit mission so we can create more amazing courses for you!

When does this course run? The course is scheduled to start June 30, 2023 and run for 10 weeks. One lesson is released each Friday.

• What does the course involve? Each lesson includes about an hour of video lecture, a PDF reading, and a short quiz. Each week you can watch the video, read the reading, take the quiz, and then join in the forum discussion. We recommend setting aside 2-4 hours a week, or more if possible.

• Will I lose access? No, you will retain access even after the last lesson has been released so you can return to the teachings whenever you like!

• Are there any live components? For the first live run of this course, June – September 2023, there will be three live online Q&As with Malcolm.

• When are the live Q&As? We will be sharing these dates very soon. Thank you for your patience!

Will I lose access? Materials will remain available to enrolled students after the end date.

Why Take This Course

• If you want to advance and deepen your Dzogchen practice by understanding its key terminology.

• If you want the opportunity to study with a master translator of Dzogchen texts.

If you want to avoid the confusion and distraction that can result from misunderstanding key terms.

Your Course Includes


Ten hour-long video lectures with Malcolm Smith


Ten multiple-choice quizzes to test your knowledge of the course material


Live Zoom Q&As with Malcolm open to all enrolled students (available during the first live run of this course, June - September 2023)


Over 100 pages of readings and course notes curated by Malcolm himself


A forum to engage with fellow students

Meet Your Teacher

Ācārya Malcolm Smith has been a student of the Great Perfection teachings since 1992. His main Dzogchen teachers are Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, the late Kunzang Dechen Lingpa, and the late H.H. Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche. He is a veteran of a traditional three-year solitary Tibetan Buddhist retreat, a published translator of Tibetan Buddhist texts, and was awarded the Āchārya degree by the Sakya Institute in 2004. He graduated in 2009 from Shang Shung Institute’s School of Tibetan Medicine. He has worked on translations for renowned lamas since 1992, including His Holiness Sakya Trizin, Kunzang Dechen Lingpa,  Khenpo Migmar Tseten, Tulku Dakpa Rinpoche, and many others. His works include Buddhahood in This Life and The Self-Arisen Vidya Tantra (vol 1) and The Self-Liberated Vidya Tantra (vol 2).

Enroll today to go deeper into Dzogchen!


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